26 years young and stubborn as ever with a Spinal Tumor
My name is Anna Page. I am from Australia and I am 26 years old. At the tender age of 10 I was diagnosed with what seemed to be a benign tumor on my sacrum (base of the spine). I had one major surgery and surgeons were confident it would not grow back.
5 years later after complaining of back pain, I had a routine MRI scan which revealed the tumor had returned bigger than ever. I had another long surgery, but again surgeons were confident they removed it all.
1 year later, it grew back. This time it was an aggressive cancer known as Neuroblastoma. At 17 years old I was thrown into 6 months of intensive chemotherapy (which nearly killed me) and then a third surgery. This surgery was the most aggressive. I had the best team of neurosurgeons and again, they were confident they removed it all.
I try not to let this spinal injury get me down
After a long recovery, I had another routine MRI scan only to be told, the tumor had (you guessed it) returned. Since 2009 oncologists and surgeons have decided to keep an eye on it. It has essentially been stable for the past 9 years, but unfortunately I still have a tumor. The damage from all my surgeries has left me in chronic pain every day. I have permanent nerve damage to my left leg, which I have very little feeling in- only ants crawling up it sensation. I have nerve damage to my bladder and bowel. And a lot of my major organs are stuck together due to scar tissue which causes most of my pain.
I am a positive and happy person- people call me a pocket rocket because I am so little but try not to let this spinal injury get me down and can be stubborn. But about 18 months ago I was diagnosed with severe depression as it started to affect my relationships, both friends and romantic relationships. The reality of day to day life can be tough to wrap your head around sometimes.
Soak up the good days
Naturally, I cannot work full time. I was in my final year of university, studying teaching but have had to defer that for now as the placement became too brutal and exhausting on my small body. I would love to go back to teaching, but at the moment I am studying an online Psychology course with hopes of being able to help young people with cancer- nothing beats lived experience. I am also very passionate about writing and would love to publish a book one day but brain fog from my medication can take over at times.
I have amazing friends and family but I find it hard being 26 years, looking perfectly healthy and having people question my disability. I have been abused when pulling into disabled parks with the classic comments "you don't look disabled." I love walking- especially bush walks. It distracts me and takes my mind off my pain. Some days are better than others and the bad days makes me realize the importance of soaking up the good days.
Cancer and spinal injury isn't all doom and gloom
I feel so unbelievably lucky to be here, experiencing this crazy thing we call life. I am proud of the scars on my body as they remind me how blessed I am. Cancer and spinal injury isn't all doom and gloom. My perspectives have changed and so have my priorities. I have big dreams of getting married one day and hopefully having children. I owe my life to the medical professions who saved my life.